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A Guide to the Earth Signs: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty Images

At the beginning of the year, one of my longest, dearest friends (an Aquarius, of course) released the following declaration to all of their closest friends (paraphrased only for brevity and privacy):

This year, EARTH SIGNS ONLY. Sorry fire, air, & water signs — I’ve had ENOUGH. FUCK you. I am OVER your SHIT. I am busy TRANSCENDING alternate realms & dimensions you can’t even CONCEIVE. I need to be GROUNDED.


On the one hand, this was a deeply alarming message to receive, especially in an unrelenting block of bold neon text and screaming caps. The 12 zodiac signs are divided into four elements — water, fire, air, and earth — and nearly all of this friend’s loved ones, including myself, aren’t earth signs at all. They were announcing, under the guise of astrology, that they were cutting out almost everyone who cared about them.

On the other hand … I got it? And I get it. We’ve discussed air signs, which breathe ideas and information; fire signs, which burn with power and passion; and water signs, which swim in emotions and memory. But all of these qualities are private sensations, acts of perception: totally intangible. Earth is something real, corporeal. The stuff that emerges from the earth — precious stones, harvests, clay — has real value in the material world. We can touch it, we can build with it, we can share it. Earth exists beyond our personal psyches as something we can actually hold and be held inside. Earth grounds us, and the three earth signs — Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn — tend to be stable, grounded, and practical.

Before there was a theory of gravity, Aristotle thought earth was the heaviest of the four elements. Classically, the element of earth has always been concerned with matter itself, the biology of human existence, fertility, and the terrestrial. In tarot, earth becomes the suit of pentacles — or coins, depending on which deck you’re using — which is the suit most concerned with wealth and materialism. In Chinese philosophy, the soil element is called ; it represents stability, the balance of yin and yang, and the change of the seasons.

My friend finally reached out again a few weeks ago, tentatively, in a group text, with a new number. I really hope they found the earth they were desperately craving — structure, connection to their physical body, and engagement with the world around them. These are the qualities we need to survive the demands of the three other internal, ephemeral elements, the anchor that connects us to human beings and humane desires.

TAURUS is a fixed sign, and the second sign on the zodiac wheel. This means it’s the least mature of the three earth signs; it’s also the most stubborn and resistant to change. All four of the fixed signs believe they can totally own their element. But most of those efforts are futile — Aquarius drifts, overstuffed with aerial information; Leo self-mythologizes, so determined to keep their fire to themselves; Scorpio submerges their private passions so deep in water that they struggle to trust anyone else. Earth, however, is a solid. It can actually be contained. So unlike the sort of Sisyphean ambitions of the other fixed signs, Taurus is capable of holding onto its element, taming earthly energies.

Here is a sign that can have things, and that loves to have things, but hates to lose them, much like a child with a very favorite toy. There is a bratty selfishness around refusing to share, but also a love and tenderness, a total devotion to their possessions.

Taurus, like Libra, is ruled by Venus. But Libra is concerned with ethereal Venusian qualities, like poetry and philosophy and romantic love. Taurus likes the good stuff, the kinds of offerings that would be made to Venus at an ancient Roman shrine: physical goods, luxuries, foods, spirits, furnishings, fine fabrics, and precious jewels. Taurus loves to nest, and gather all those physical goods into one perfectly cozy space. And this very physical Venusian sign loves cooking dinner for a loved one, spooning them in bed, or fucking them with an animal intensity. Again, Taurus placements have to watch out for their own immaturity and greed. Their possessiveness can extend from their material possessions to their lovers, and while that can be consistent and comforting, it can easily suffocate. Taurus operates in a scarcity mentality, and they have to cultivate the ability to give things away.

Famous Taurus suns include Sid Vicious, Cher, Karl Marx, Carmen Electra, Harper Lee, Shirley Temple, and George Clooney. They all embody a singularly humane beauty, something only possible through stubbornness and enthusiasm for the physical world.

VIRGO is a mutable earth sign. This might be surprising, given their anal-retentive reputation. The other mutable signs are a little more … loose. Gemini, Pisces, and Sagittarius aren’t known for being Type-A control freaks. But Virgos are actually constantly adjusting, endlessly aware of the balance between their material needs and those of others, always holding space. This is what makes them so wonderful just as it makes them so grating. Virgos are constantly keeping score, and sometimes everyone else would rather they keep those thoughts to themselves.

The Virgo constellation is “the Virgin,” replete with long locks and a sheaf of wheat. Let’s not imagine this virgin as a teen with a promise ring. Instead, picture Diana, sprinting through the woods with her bow and arrow, refusing to stop for any man, even a god. Virgo is fiercely independent, and steadfast in the belief that they can do everything themselves, and do it better. Of course, this isn’t always true, but Virgo will readjust until they can do it as perfectly as possible.

Virgo is ruled by Mercury, which means that their stock and trade lies in information and messaging. Again, let’s recall the Greco-Roman roots of these archetypes — Mercury the god was the courier of the heavens, the only force that could travel everywhere without inhibitions, with speed and grace, from the peaks of Olympus to the depths of the underworld. If Gemini, the other sign ruled by Mercury, is associated with aerial and intangible information like gossip and witty conversation, Virgo is the physical messenger — speeding from place to place, compiling, organizing, and disseminating. They consider this transmission of information their duty and obligation, whether you like it or not.

Renowned Virgo suns include Mother Teresa, Ingrid Berman, Caligula, Freddie Mercury, Amy Winehouse, Jesse Owens, and Mary Shelly. Their fame emerges from their messages: lyrics, mottoes, and impacts that service others more than they ever served themselves.

CAPRICORN, the oldest and wisest of the earth elementals, is a cardinal sign. That means that, like with Libra, Aries, and Cancer, there is a sense of immediacy and urgency underlying everything they do. They’re ambitious, they’re ready to get it done, and they want to do it now. The other thing that Capricorn shares in common with these other cardinal signs is a sort of obliviousness to any other elemental energy that isn’t their own — as if anything that isn’t earth doesn’t exist. This means there is no space for the distractions of aerial solipsism, watery feelings, or fiery madness in the Capricorn world. There is only earth: only the things we can touch and see, only material achievements and terrestrial accomplishments, only the stuff we can get done in this world before we die. This can make Capricorn cold, aloof, and out of touch with their own internal landscape; they easily compartmentalize those other parts of themselves to deal with earthly matters at hand.

Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, the planet of structure and discipline, the astrological embodiment of Father Time — the most memento-mori planet. While Aquarius, the other Saturn-ruled sign, tends to apply Saturnian rigor to the collective, dreaming of better futures, Capricorn is more concerned with their own personal abilities: things that they can actually manifest, not just imagine. Do it here, do it now, or it won’t matter. Get it done before it’s all over, because second chances and next lives are never guaranteed. Capricorns can hustle like no other sign on the zodiac, but, like an emotionally uninvolved, workaholic dad, their goals and commitment to the grind can cause them to disregard personal milestones and interpersonal connections. This Saturn rulership can be a source of maturity, but also a film that saturates their life in loneliness.

There is a reason why my Aquarian friend was so hungry for the pure, earth-bound energy epitomized by Capricorn. The rest of us can easily get lost in the unreal — our fantasies, our paranoias, our expectations — and Capricorn is determined to remain focused and present, totally committed to being alive.

Well-known Capricorn suns include Joan of Arc, Greta Thunberg, Martin Luther King, Nicolas Cage, David Bowie, Charo, Betty White, and Marlene Dietritch. They all possess an almost superhuman internal drive and attention, a relentless pursuit for worldly impact.

In addition to being divided into elements, the zodiac signs are divided into three modalities: cardinal, mutable, and fixed. The cardinal signs — Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn — fall at the beginning of each season. The fixed signs — Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius — fall in the middle of their seasons, and the mutable signs — Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces — bring their seasons to a close. The astrological calendar, or zodiac wheel, starts with Aries, which is considered to be the baby of the zodiac. Taurus comes right after.
A Guide to the Earth Signs: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn